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No. 40, Part II, 26 February 1997
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html ********************************************************************** OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement: Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at: http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials, RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents, bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time being under the same terms. OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition, for more information on Transition please access http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz ********************************************************************* CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE EU TO SEND ANOTHER MISSION TO BELARUS . . . The EU is to send another fact-finding mission to Belarus, RFE/RL reported on 25 February. The decision comes one day after the EU foreign ministers heard an oral report by a fact-finding mission composed of EU, Council of Europe. and OSCE representatives on the political situation in Belarus (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 February 1995). The second mission is to start work next week and will be headed by the Netherlands' Aad Kosto, who led the previous mission. One of its tasks will be to convey to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the ministers' disapproval of the November 1996 referendum and the subsequent dismissal of the democratically elected parliament. The plebiscite gave Lukashenka sweeping powers. Since then, European bodies have criticized his authoritarian rule and threatened to suspend assistance to Belarus until democratic norms are respected. -- Sergei Solodovnikov . . . WHILE WORLD BANK WITHHOLDS CREDITS. World Bank representative to Belarus Christopher Willoughby has blamed the government's indecisiveness for the bank's refusal to grant Belarus any loans over the past three years, Belarusian TV reported on 25 February. Willoughby noted that if Belarus wanted to become a regional economic power, it needed foreign investment, a tight budget, the completion of privatization, and a competitive market environment. Similar statements have been made on many occasions, but the Belarusian government has so far failed to take decisive action to implement any of those measures. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FIRES TWO MINISTERS. Leonid Kuchma has sacked Finance Minister Valentyn Koronevskii and Statistics Minister Oleksander Osaulenko, international agencies reported on 25 February. He also announced that Economy Minister Vasyl Hureyev and Valerii Malev, minister for machine-building and the military complex, would be transferred to other posts. Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko had asked Kuchma the previous day to fire the four ministers following sharp criticism of the government over unpaid wages and the slow pace of reform. Wage arrears totaled 4.2 billion hryvnyas ($2.3 billion) at the beginning of 1997, while GNP in January was down by 10.4% on the January 1996 level. Kuchma launched a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month when he fired the agriculture minister and deputy transport minister. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev UKRAINIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS ROUNDUP. A Romanian delegation has arrived in Kyiv for talks on the Romanian-Ukrainian basic treaty, international agencies reported on 25 February. Ukrainian First Deputy Foreign Minister Anton Buteiko was optimistic that the talks would yield results, pointing out that Bucharest needs to conclude a comprehensive bilateral treaty with Ukraine to improve its chances of early admission into NATO. With regard to issue of the Ukrainian-Romanian border, he said Ukraine is ready to make concessions, while Romanian President Emil Constantinescu has noted that Romania is prepared to recognize Ukraine's current borders and its ownership of Serpent Island, an outcrop with potentially valuable energy reserves around it. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Lviv on 25 February to discuss boosting economic cooperation. The same day, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmu and his Albanian counterpart, Safet Zhulali, signed an agreement in Kyiv on military cooperation. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN PREMIER RESIGNS. Tiit Vahi on 25 February submitted his resignation to President Lennart Meri two weeks after he narrowly survived a no confidence vote (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 February 1997), ETA reported. Meri is required to nominate within 14 days a new prime minister, who then has two weeks to present a government for the parliament's approval Vahi and his cabinet will remain in office until the new government is approved. The ruling Coalition Party has named its caucus head, Mart Siimann, as candidate for premier. The Progress, Center, and Reform Parties reportedly back Siimann's candidacy, although it is unclear whether any of those formations will be invited to form a coalition. Vahi intends to return to the parliament as a deputy. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT LOSES A NOMINATING PRIVILEGE. The Seimas on 25 February accepted the resignation of Vladas Nikitinas as prosecutor- general but asked him to remain in office until a successor is appointed, Radio Lithuania reported. Deputies rejected President Algirdas Brazauskas's suggestion that Deputy Prosecutor-General Arturas Paulauskas serve as an interim head. They also transfered the right to nominate the prosecutor-general from the president to the Seimas Law and Order Committee. That body will consider candidates proposed by the chairman of the Supreme Court and the justice minister. The Center Union--which has two portfolios but is not a formal coalition partner-- did not take part in the vote on the right to nominate the prosector- general because it believes that changes in the legal system should be made only after a broader public debate. -- Saulius Girnius PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE OVER POLISH CONSTITUTION HEATS UP. During the second day of the joint parliamentary session to debate the draft constitution, Polish Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski rejected the draft and argued for a constitution based on religious values, Polish media reported. "Poland has always founded its system of values and its constitutional law on Christian values," Krzaklewski said. Former Prime Minister and Freedom Union leader Tadeusz Mazowiecki expressed astonishment at Krzaklewski's statement. Mazowiecki is the author of a compromise formula in the preamble to the draft, which stresses that Poland is a nation made up both of believers and non-believers. Solidarity senator Barbara Lekawa demanded that the word "citizens" be replaced in the constitution by "nation." -- Jakub Karpinski SLOVAK INTEGRATION INTO EURO STRUCTURES. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jozef Sestak told journalists on 25 February that he believes the referendum on NATO membership will confirm the government's program and give it a clear mandate to forge ahead with negotiations over Slovakia's entry into the alliance. He added that there is no alternative for Slovakia to NATO membership. In other news, European Commissioner Hans van den Broek said after a meeting of the EU-Slovak committee in Brussels that the lack of foreign investment in Slovakia is a result of the political climate. Van den Broek expressed hope that the Slovak parliament will soon pass a law on the use of minority languages. -- Anna Siskova SLOVAK POLITICAL UPDATE. Spokeswoman Marta Podhradska said on 25 February that Minister of Culture Ivan Hudec will not meet theater unions demands because he considers the protest action among theater employees illegal, CTK reported. The theaters want all theaters to be declared legal entities and an open competition for the directorships of all theaters and ensembles. Thirteen of Slovakia's 21 theaters are affected by the protest, which is taking the form of a statement read to the audience after a performance. Meanwhile, Slovak President Michal Kovac has met with the top representatives of the opposition parties to discuss the petition drive for a referendum on direct presidential elections. Presidential spokesman Vladimir Stefko said Kovac is considering holding the referendums on membership in NATO and on direct presidential elections at the same time to save money and simplify organizational matters. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN FARMERS, CABINET REACH PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT. Farmers' representatives and a government delegation headed by Finance Ministry State Secretary Tibor Draskovics have reached a preliminary agreement over new tax and social insurance measures, Hungarian media reported on 25 February. The agreement simplifies tax procedures and eases the farmers' tax and social insurance burdens. However, farmers have started their third--and final--scheduled day of protests, partly blocking roads mainly in eastern Hungary. Hungarian Radio reported some protesters as saying they are no longer protesting simply the new taxes but the government's agriculture policy as a whole. -- Zsolt Mato HUNGARY, ROMANIA AGREE TO OPEN CONSULATES. Hungarian and Romanian Foreign Ministry officials, meeting in Budapest on 25 February, exchanged documents providing for consulates on each other's territory, Reuters reported. Romania will open a consulate in the southeastern city of Szeged, while the Hungarian consulate will be located in the Transylvanian city of Cluj. Two honorary consulates, mainly aimed at improving economic ties, are to open in the west Hungarian town of Gyor and in Constanta, on Romania's Black Sea coast. The opening of the Cluj consulate has triggered widespread controversy, with local nationalists and all parliamentary opposition parties voicing their objections (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 January 1997). In related news, a delegation from the Hungarian parliament's European Integration Committee held talks with senior Romanian officials in Bucharest. Viktor Orban, president of the committee, reiterated Hungary's desire that Romania and Hungary join NATO simultaneously. -- Zsolt Mato SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S., EU EXPRESS CONCERN OVER DEVELOPMENTS IN ALBANIA. The State Department on 25 February said it is "deeply concerned" about recent developments in Albania, AFP reported. It also urged local leaders to call for an end to the violence and to "respect the right of their citizens to demonstrate peacefully." The U.S. is "deeply troubled by reports of beatings and other acts of intimidation," the statement stressed. In Brussels, the EU foreign ministers backed moves by the European Commission to give money and technical assistance to Albania through its PHARE program, Reuters reported. Aid would be targeted at agriculture, small and medium-sized businesses, and local communities. Technical assistance would also be offered to Albania's banking sector. But the ministers made clear they expected Albania to abide by democratic principles. -- Fabian Schmidt MORE CLASHES IN TIRANA. Men claiming to be students broke up an anti- government sit-in at Tirana University on 25 February, attacking students and journalists, local media reported. Pro-government student union leader Shkelzer Margjeka was reported to be among the men who broke up the gathering. The head of the Tirana Engineering School said at least 90% of students stayed away from classes that day. Meanwhile, 48 students in Vlora continued the hunger strike they began last week. They have been joined by striking students in Fier, Gjirokastr, and Shkoder. In Berat, President Sali Berisha, addressing some 1,000 invited supporters, dismissed the student's demands as illegal. The Democratic Party has said it will return a $50,000 donation received from the Gjallica pyramid company last year before the election campaign. Meanwhile, Albania's premier soccer team, Flamurtari, has pledged to continue its boycott of matches in support of the protests. -- Fabian Schmidt SERBIAN UPDATE. Thousands of students continued their protest in Belgrade on 25 February, calling for increased reforms and the dismissal of the pro-regime rector of Belgrade University, local independent media reported. Teachers also kept up their strike action to demand increased pay, while doctors staged a one-hour warning strike in support of their demand for improved wage packages. In other news, Reuters reported that the newly appointed Zajedno members of Belgrade's Municipal Assembly traveled to Spain on 25 February to launch an appeal for funds to rebuild Belgrade's infrastructure, which, they say, is in ruins because of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's policies. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN STATE MEDIA RENEW ATTACK AGAINST MONTENEGRIN PREMIER. Serbia state-run television and most state-controlled dailies have made more barbs against Milo Djukanovic, accusing him of "arrogance" and involvement in conspiracies to destabilize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This is the second verbal attack agains the Montenegrin premier within a week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 February 1997). Djukanovic is among those leaders seeking to undermine Milosevic's authority and break up Montenegro's political union with Serbia. Meanwhile, prominent members of Montenegro's literary circles have signed a letter to Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic appealing to the Montenegrin authorities to put a stop to Milosevic's "dictatorship." The letter--signed by the head of Montenegro's PEN club, Jakov Mrvaljevic--appears in today's issue of Nasa Borba. -- Stan Markotich HAGUE COURT STEPS UP PRESSURE IN BLASKIC CASE. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is continuing efforts to obtain information in the case against Gen. Tihomir Blaskic, who has served with the armies of both Croatia and the Bosnian Croats. The court expects current Bosnian Defense Minister Ante Jelavic, a Croat, to appear on 28 February to present documents as promised by the Sarajevo government, AFP wrote on 25 February. The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, will also meet with Croatian officials in Zagreb to obtain yet more information. Blaskic agreed in a deal to come to The Hague, where he is being tried for a series of war crimes in 1993 and early 1994 against Muslims, primarily in the Lasva valley area. -- Patrick Moore. ZAGREB, BELGRADE TO WORK TOGETHER ON MISSING PERSONS. The governments of Croatia and federal Yugoslavia agreed in principle on 25 February to speed up work in investigating the fate of some 2,400 Croats and 3,000 Serbs missing since the 1991 war. The Croatian Foreign Ministry released the statement, adding that the head of the Croatian commission for missing persons, Ivan Grujic, and his federal Yugoslav counterpart, Pavle Todorovic, will meet again on 6 March. The fate of the missing remains an emotionally charged issue across the former Yugoslavia. Although it is widely assumed that most of the persons in question are now dead, both sides are demanding the clarification of each case. Meanwhile, the UN has published a report saying that there are 25,000 missing in all across the former Yugoslavia and blaming the Belgrade government and NATO peacekeepers for the lack of progress in clearing up these cases. -- Patrick Moore UN HOLDS CROATIAN POLICE RESPONSIBLE FOR MOSTAR VIOLENCE. The UN police has said that Bosnian Croat policemen were responsible for the shooting of Muslims in the Croat-held part of Mostar during Muslim-Croat clashes there on 10 February, which left one dead and 34 wounded, international media reported on 26 February. The report said at least two West Mostar police officers in plain clothes were photographed firing into the Muslim crowd, including the Croatian police deputy chief. Michael Steiner, deputy High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, called on top Bosnian officials to dismiss, arrest, and put on trial criminals identified by the report. Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian Muslim member of the presidency, has accepted Steiner's request unconditionally. But the Croatian member, Kresimir Zubak, said his acceptance was conditional on the submission of further reports about violence after the 10 February incident. But Steiner said this is unacceptable. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department called on the Bosnian Federation authorities to bring to justice those singled out by the UN report. -- Daria Sito Sucic ZAGREB SUBMITS FINAL LIST OF SERBIAN WAR CRIMINALS. Croatian Deputy Premier Ivica Kostovic on 25 February said Zagreb has submitted to the UN a list of suspected war criminals in the 1991 Serbian-Croatian war, Vjesnik reported the next day. The list was not made public. According to Kostovic, it contains the names of between 140 and 170 people who lived in eastern Slavonia in 1991 and who are currently resident in the area. -- Daria Sito Sucic MACEDONIAN PRIVATIZATION DISPUTE RESULTS IN BRAWL. Four people were injured and 14 arrested in a fistfight in Skopje on 24 February after Ivan Dicev, ousted director of the Pelagonija construction company, and 30 "bodyguards" forced their way into the company's premises, Macedonian media reported. The police restored order and arrested Dicev and his entourage. Workers were on strike from mid-December 1996 until early February to protest massive layoffs, wage and social-benefit arrears, alleged criminal offenses, and the method used to privatize the company. The workers' strike committee decided last month to suspend Dicev and the board of directors and to appoint a new management. During the strike, Dicev claimed he had signed a $400 million deal with Albania's Vefa Holding, a suspected pyramid scheme. -- Michael Wyzan ROMANIAN PREMIER ON IMPACT OF ECONOMIC REFORM. Victor Ciorbea on 25 February said during a two-hour live broadcast on Radio Bucharest that Romania needed strict economic reform to avoid the kind of economic collapse experienced by neighboring Bulgaria and to make up for the time wasted by the former leftist administration. Ciorbea remained confident that the first positive effects of his cabinet's austerity and reform program would be felt later this year if the program were implemented in full. Meanwhile, former President Ion Iliescu told Cronica romana on 26 February that the current cabinet's package of economic and social reforms was a "big hoax." -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. IMF representative to Bulgaria Anne McGuirk, at the start of two-week negotiations with the interim government to conclude a fifth stand-by loan agreement, confirmed that she would like to work with the cabinet but was not certain if the IMF could sign an accord with it, local media reported on 26 February. Nonetheless, at a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov, McGuirk said she is impressed by the willingness of the new cabinet to introduce tough reforms. Meanwhile, Bulgaria's leading trade unions on 25 February signed an agreement with the interim government and the Chamber of Commerce on protecting incomes and imposing a moratorium on strikes, RFE/RL reported. The unions have agreed not to make unrealistic wage demands and to support the government during the transitional period of structural reform. Caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyansky described the agreement as an "extremely important [demonstration of] support." -- Maria Koinova [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to email@example.com 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message BACK ISSUES Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World Wide Web, by FTP and by E-mail. WWW http://www.omri.cz/Publications/DD/Index.html FTP ftp://FTP.OMRI.CZ/Pub/DailyDigest/ REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Reprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the OMRI Daily Digest. For subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ or visit the Transition Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Transition/Index.html RUSSIAN REGIONAL REPORT The Russian Regional Report is a weekly publication (published every Wednesday) initially focusing on the local elections taking place throughout Russia during the Fall of 1996. After the election season is over, the Russian Regional Report will continue, turning to broader social, political, and economic issues of Russia's regions. To subscribe, please follow these instructions: 1) Compose a message to: MAJORDOMO@OMRI.CZ 2) In the body of the message, write: SUBSCRIBE REGIONS Your Name Fill in your own first and last names where shown 3) Send the message PURSUING BALKAN PEACE Pursuing Balkan Peace contains the latest news about developments in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the other countries of Southeastern Europe. 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